I’m getting in late on the action. Almost every music critic I admire has already written their review of The Ethical Debating Society’s new album New Sense, and I’m still… afraid… to play it. I mean, I have played it, but not at full volume. Not with full concentration. To be honest, I find most of the songs terrifying. But there is something, something that makes me play it. It’s the thing I have only half found so I’m still looking for it.
As I said way back in May when I saw the Ethical Debating Society live, their strength is undoubtably the vocals. All the boiling anger is in there, as well as the explosive fun and the way beyond tongue-in-cheeck humour (“I like you so I’ll kill you last”). That is why my favourite songs are the closing two. ‘Riderrr’ (also known as ‘that kazoo song’) is undoubtably the catchiest song on the whole album, the one that has most pop and least punk. But it’s also the song on which Tegan sounds brightest. And oh can I resist those oooh oooh ooohs?
The final song ‘disaster I’ve known and loved’ is just bare bones voice and hand clapping and I’m so happy it’s on there, because in my live review I actually suggested TEDS should be writing a capella songs. Without the LOUD GUITARS obscuring, the emotion is there in front of your face: “10 degrees is the difference between bones bending and bones breaking”.
But of course I’m wrong. There is vulnerability in anger too, it’s just harder to see. Just listen to that great bit in ‘Razor Party’ (“I bet you’re thinking could it be that none of this relates to me?”). And maybe even that’s not true. Maybe I just don’t want to see the anger, because it makes me feel frightened, because I cannot wholly relate. It’s not my anger, after all. I know I don’t want music to be enjoyable only, but most of the time I can choose the way in which it makes me feel uncomfortable. Which means it’s not real discomfort. The Ethical Debating Society is going beyond that and is therefore more shocking than most things.
Am I raging? Am I raving? Honestly, I don’t know. New Sense is at the same time tempting and teasing, thrilling and threatening. For me, the prize is hidden behind the LOUD, but the LOUD is another prize that only becomes apparent after not looking for it, and there I’m back again inside the maze. The thing I was looking for is the ‘polished version’, which cannot exist without contradiction. The Ethical Debating Society leaves me confused, not quite satisfied, curious, even more confused, scared, but also – excited.
-- Caspar Jacobs, July 16, 2015